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Springtime at the Rockies doubleheader

May 21, 2013 - By Steven R. Peck

Suppose you were me. I know, I know -- that's a tantalizing prospect for just about everyone, so let me narrow the parameters of the supposition.

Let's say you have landed at Denver International Airport late on a Tuesday morning after a trip east. When you arrive, the scene is reminiscent of your favorite old disaster movie, "Airport," from 1970. The only vehicles you see moving on the runway other than the plane you're on are snowplows and buses shuttling people from distant, snowed-in points around the airport to the terminal. Snow is falling, considerably so.

Half an hour later, you finally can discern which vehicle is yours in the outdoor parking lot that has been buried under 8 inches of snow. You get in and begin your intended drive back to Riverton, so that you can get some work done that afternoon on section B of the Sunday paper, which prints mid-week.

Being me is pretty exciting so far, isn't it?

Keep on supposing. You continue, leaving the airport and noticing that the snow is letting up. But the roads are awful, and you wonder why the route from the airport is even open. As you proceed toward Denver, you employ your onboard communications device (OK, I was using my smartphone while driving) to check road and travel information, and you realize that not only is the road you are on suitable for closure, Interstate 25 north to Wyoming already is closed. So is U.S. 287 from Fort Collins to Laramie and so is U.S. 85 north from Greeley to Cheyenne. West over the mountains and north from there? No chance.

The temperature is 28 degrees, the wind is blowing, snow is obscuring a good portion of your vision, and you are driving at about 15 mph.

Now that you have supposed all of those things, here's a question: What should you do next?

Go to a Major League Baseball game, of course.

That's what I did April 15, the day the Colorado Rockies hosted the New York Mets in what must be ranked among the coldest major-league baseball doubleheaders ever played.

I couldn't get home, so I figured I might as well see the ball game -- if they were dumb enough actually to play it. They were, and I was dumb enough to go.

If you've ever been to a game at Coors Field, you know how outlandish the following statement is: I parked right in front of the stadium on 20th Street at a parking meter -- 15 minutes after the game had started.

Normally you can't park within a half-mile of the stadium, and often not even that close. But on this Tuesday, I pulled in right at the front door.

I had been in Washington, D.C., and had only a light jacket with me. I did have a pair of work gloves in the pickup, so I put those on. It also happened to be T-shirt day at Coors Field, and the poor greeter had 10,000 T-shirts in boxes behind her with virtually nobody showing up for them.

"May I have an extra?" I asked with a tooth-chattering smile.

Indeed I could, and I pulled them on right over my jacket. Then it was up to the Rockies Dugout store, where I purchased a hooded sweatshirt and a Rockies stocking cap. I had thought to bring a wool blanket I carried in the truck with me as well, and I wrapped it around me as I proceeded to my seat. I've had season tickets for a couple of years, and the seats are pretty good -- 16th row, first-base line, on the edge of the infield.

"Just sit anywhere you want today," said the usher at the concourse level, so I eased into a spot six rows behind the dugout. But a man dressed for an Arctic expedition has to see my tickets, and I realized it was Jerry, the familiar club-level usher who has sprayed me with a mist of cool water during several mid-July games.

That was the farthest thing from either his mind or mine as I said "Jerry, I was told upstairs that we could sit anywhere we wanted today."

"Anywhere within 10 rows," he said, so I moved back up to my normal spot.

I had never been to a baseball game where hot cocoa was being hawked by stadium vendors until that day. I paid baseball park ransom prices for the hottest cocoa he had, and held it between my hands as the game proceeded.

Todd Helton was shivering a bit at first base, and no wonder. Of all the players, he was the only one not wearing a turtleneck and long sleeves. Second baseman Josh Rutledge had ear flaps on his hat. But not tough ol' Todd. Standard jersey, short sleeves.

I sat until I started shivering, then moved up to the concourse level so that I could walk around and look down at the field. The Rockies were behind early but came back to win in an exciting finish.

Just as we were leaving, it was announced that the previous day's game that had been canceled by the snowstorm would be played that night, and anyone in attendance at the game just finishing up would be admitted free. It was a nice offer, but not all that costly for the Rockies -- I think there were only about 750 people there with me that afternoon. The stadium holds 48,000. The ice cream sellers had a bad day.

Roads were still closed, and it was getting dark, so I found a hotel room within about a 15-minute walk to the stadium. I took a very hot shower, put on a pair of modern-length exercise shorts (meaning they ended at my shins) under my pants, added an extra pair of socks, threw on every T-shirt I had with me in addition to the two new Rockies tees I had acquired, put on the hood, the gloves and the stocking cap again and, incredibly, went back for more.

The nighttime temperature at that game time was 26. The wind had calmed, but it would have been cold even for a football game -- and Peyton Manning was nowhere to be seen. There was a bigger crowd that night, maybe about 3,000, but the extra body heat didn't seem to make much difference. I guess we should have huddled together.

I spent a good portion of that game in the dugout store, which is not heated but is at least enclosed. There I again encountered Jerry, the Nanook of the North-clad usher.

I asked if this was the coldest game he had ever worked.

"God, I sure hope so," he said.

Again, the Rockies came from behind to win late in the game -- but I will acknowledge that I found out about that only after I returned from my hotel room. By the time ESPN came on with the final score I was steaming in a hot bath.

The day's baseball highlight, in retrospect, came in about the sixth inning of the first game when a player for the Mets lifted a high foul ball in my general direction. As fans scrambled to position themselves to catch the souvenir in the sparsely populated stands, the ball hit between rows of seats -- but never bounced. Instead, it had landed in a thick pile of slushy snow with a loud splat.

Springtime in the Rockies. Play ball!

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